By Melissa Clark
Since Dedee Pfeiffer can remember, her compassion for animals has been a big part of her life. Whether she discovered a stray on the street to take care of, brought an injured animal to the shelter for care, or welcomed one home, her undeniable commitment to the voiceless has gained her the unconditional love of creatures great and small.
Pfeiffer, a longtime actress who was a regular on hit shows such as "Cybil" and "For Your Love," is certainly well-known in Hollywood yet she’s just returned to TV after 10 years off. name in Hollywood. You’ll recognize her from roles alongside her sister Michelle in films such as "Frankie and Johnny" and "Up Close and Personal." Now she is playing Denise Brisbane on the David E. Kelley-helmed hit series Big Sky (airs on ABC-TV) which has brought her back into the spotlight. On Big Sky, Dedee portrays a wise, nurturing woman who's not afraid to call out her co-workers on their mistakes.
A ten-year hiatus from acting would find Pfeiffer back in school, "I took 10 years off to go get what should have been a four-year degree, and I was finishing my Master's at UCLA in social work (specializing in homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse) right before the pandemic," Dedee explains. Then she was, as she says, “slapped with the lucky stick” and got the part in Big Sky. But nothing stops her animal rescue efforts. During her break from Tinseltown to pick up the books, she and her sons drove three hours to rescue a Rottweiler found on the internet almost eight years ago. Scarlet Spartan Deeoghy, aka Sparta, would be the newest member of the Pfeiffer family. This wouldn't be the first time Pfeiffer would find a home for a needy pet.
A strong connection to animals has been with her always, Pfeiffer shares, "as an introverted, overweight and misunderstood child, I found that animals were the only ones who understood me. After all, I understood them.” She recalls a time in her childhood when her neighbor had a garage sale, and she and her siblings went to check it out. Her two sisters returned with a Barbie, and her brother came back with a toy; Pfeiffer came back with a baby duck.
To this day, the Pfeiffer family has rescued a Cockatoo named Pandora, a Siamese cat named Leonard, and now they have Sparta. This will be the fifth Rottweiler Pfeiffer has saved in her life. So what makes Sparta so unique? Well, according to dog mom, Pfeiffer, this eight-year-old is a "puppy shoved in a huge body," as Pfeiffer describes her beloved pet. Sparta is not only smart, but she knows she's charming. "She will bat her eyes and give us that look," Pfeiffer reveals, admitting she relents and spoils this big baby. Sparta’s devotion to the family as a protector is her job, she takes her role most seriously. However, she is silly, loves to play, and wants to be part of her human's playtime.
When asked how much Sparta weighs, Pfeiffer laughs, "Girlfriend needs to go on a diet." Yet truth be told, she’s 95 lbs. of love, that's because she steals the food off her family’s dinner plates when no one is looking. Pfeiffer shoots "Big Sky" In Vancouver, British Columbia keeping her away from home frequently so she depends upon her sons to exercise Sparta. As we all know, teenagers can be teenagers. Pfeiffer makes sure her boys understand that Sparta will not be around as long as they want her to be if she doesn't get the workout routine she needs. As Pfeiffer says, "I explain to them that it's not a chore; it's her quality of life."
Pfeiffer has a profound love for animals and with that comes respect for their basic instincts and a keen understanding that their natural survival skills dictate how they react to certain circumstances. She makes sure that her kids are not on the floor with the dog at the same time. "You cannot assume any animal is going to understand the behavior of a child. Just as we respect people's personal space, we must respect an animal's space." Pfeiffer clarifies that humans think its "cute" or "adorable" when a pet is whining when their two-legged companions are playing with them but actually, the pet is cautioning us that we are too close and a problem may occur.
It's remarkable that Pfeiffer is so skillfully able to utilize her skills learned during her academic years to relate both to human and animal cognitive behavior. With her ten-year hiatus behind her and a bounty of insights gained, she’s now back on the big screen, concentrating on a new chapter in her life.
Big Sky airs on ABC. Keep an eye out for Dedee. She’ll be “rescuing” people on the show, but we know her heart is with animals everywhere who need loving care.